Ford Focus EV Mule - Click above for high-res gallery

The U.S. Department of Energy has finally announced the first recipient of low interest loans under its Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Incentive Program. The first recipient is Ford, and analysts believe the DoE will award sums to Nissan and Tesla Motors, as well. Ford applied for up to $11 billion in loans, but instead it was awarded $5.9 billion in financing. The Dearborn-based automaker will use the money to fund its electric vehicle program that will launch a battery-powered version of the Transit Connect in 2010, and it will also likely use the capital to help pay for the $550 million renovation of its Wayne, MI sport-utility plant to build the next-generation Focus in both internal combustion and electric flavors.

For its part, Nissan wants to add production of its upcoming electric car and lithium ion batteries at its assembly complex in Smyrna, Tennessee, and it will receive $1.6 billion.

Despite receiving the smallest sum of the three automakers, Tesla is arguably the biggest winner this round, as the $465 million it may receive will allow the fledgeling EV maker to proceed with completing development and production of its Model S sedan. Recent investment in the company by Daimler was probably a big help in getting the loan approved, as companies had to demonstrate viability. And since the ATVM program favors re-tooling of older existing plants, Tesla will probably look at acquiring a closed factory from another company. Recent rumors had the company possibly getting a former McDonnell-Douglas factory in Long Beach, although there are plenty of other properties available.

The current Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings at General Motors and Chrysler made those companies ineligible in the current round. It's not known if any announcements will be made about loans for battery makers like A123 or EnerDel.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

[Source: Automotive News, sub. req'd]

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